PORT ANGELES – Four police personnel, deployed Thursday to Port Angeles High School after a racial slur and a threatened shooting were scrawled on a bathroom wall, will not return to the campus today Deputy Police Chief Jason Viada said Thursday afternoon.
The sergeant and three police officers conducted a security sweep of the grounds early Thursday before students arrived, then stayed on campus for the school day as “prevention of something terrible happening,” Viada said Thursday morning.
“With the information I received, it was enough for me to make the decision to deploy officers to the school,” he said.
“I don’t have any indication that I should deploy that many officers [Friday],” he said Thursday afternoon.
School Board President Sarah Methner said she was told by school district officials that the graffiti was discovered Wednesday morning on a men’s bathroom wall.
“There was a threat of a shooting happening at the school,” she said.
“I was told the word shooting was used, which obviously cranks this up to a higher level of freaking out.”
Viada would not confirm Methner’s account of the wording while the case remains under investigation.
Custodial staff cleaned off the graffiti before it was viewed by students or additional staff, said school district spokesperson Carmen Geyer.
Viada said a male high school student is suspected of writing the graffiti. He said the suspect was seen on a school surveillance video but was not seen writing the graffiti.
Viada said said the officers’ sweep of the campus did not include looking for explosives but would not comment on what they were looking for.
In a letter to parents, Geyer said the police department “does not believe this to be a credible threat.”
Viada did not want “to spend time picking apart the message the school carefully worded,” he said.
“My focus isn’t on adjectives, my focus is formulating and implementing a safety plan.”
Methner did not know the precise wording of the statement or ethnic group to whom the slur was directed.
Geyer said the racial slur and the threat of violence were not connected. She would not elaborate on the slur or the words used.
“We are able to say the threat of violence was not directed to any racial or religious group,” she said.
“The threat of violence was its own sentence.
“The racial slur was separate from that sentence in the same room. It wasn’t targeted toward any group in particular in the sentence.”
High School Counselor Cecilia Jacobs said the campus, with half the student population in attendance during COVID-19 restrictions, was “really quiet” Thursday morning.
“They try to keep a lid on things so rumors don’t start,” she said.
“I did see a police officer walk through.”
Jacobs said no students had talked with her about the incident “and we have an open door.”
Port Angeles Education Association union local President John Henry said it appeared the school administration sent the same letter about the incident to teachers as was sent to parents. He had few details about the incident.
“I knew there were threats and inappropriate graffiti,” he said.
“We didn’t feel like we were in any great danger,” Henry added.
“These things happen.
“When you look at the national news, very little surprises me anymore.”
Schools Superintendent Martin Brewer did not return calls for comment.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].